If left untreated, ear infections can lead to some fatal conditions.
Ear infections can result in serious neurological complications including hearing loss, facial paralysis, meningitis and brain abscess, according to a study published in the journal of Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. It was found that the use of antibiotics reduces the danger of ear infections but cannot cure them completely.
Ear infections are caused due to trauma to the ear, bad upper respiratory infection and poor Eustachian tube function, wherein the tube connecting to the nose and ears have common pathways. Dr Pradeep Singh, senior consultant and chief of the department of ENT and neck surgery, states that ear infections must be properly treated, otherwise they can be fatal.
Why is it important to treat ear infections properly?
Prolonged or recurrent ear infections can lead to reduced hearing, dizziness, ringing sounds in the ears and in some cases, spread of infection to the brain. Ear infections can lead to neurological problems. Cholesteatoma is a disease of the ear that has the potential to erode the bony barricade between the middle ear and brain, leading to the potential risk of meningitis, facial nerve paralysis, nerve-related hearing loss and brain abscess. This kind of potential complications require aggressive antibiotics therapy and surgery.
How can facial paralysis be treated? Is it a rare occurrence?
Facial paralysis is caused due to a middle ear infection. It is treated with surgical debridement and aggressive antibiotic therapy. The incidence is pretty low — 3.1 per cent. However, at the first sign of any weakness of the face muscles an immediate consultation must be sought.
How is brain abscess caused? Can it lead to further complications?
Factors causing brain abscess include high virulence of the organism, poor resistance of the patient, presence of chronic systemic diseases and resistance of the organism to antibiotics. Brain abscess is a severe complication. Initial management consists of stabilisation of the patient as continued in the management of the patient with meningitis. Surgery may also be required in some cases.
Which age group is found to suffer from these neurological conditions? Do co-morbid factors have an effect?
It is most commonly seen to affect the poor socio-economic strata of society. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause aggravation of symptoms in the ear as it would with any other part of the body.
Despite use of antibiotics, does the risk of infection continue?
A premature withdrawal of medications may lead to the patient developing resistance to a particular antibiotic. There are ongoing studies to check the validity of the claim whether despite using antibiotics there is re-occurrence of infection.
How can the ear be protected from recurrent infections?
Ensure that the ear is safe from traumatic injuries and also prevent allergies. If there are allergens in the atmosphere or it is known that the person suffers from allergies, then the right precautions must be taken.
Keep in mind
1) Avoid exposing children to cigarette smoke
2) Keep the nose clean
3) Be properly hydrated
4) Keep away from too much of processed foods and sugary juices
5) Treat gastroesophageal reflux, if it is present
6) Keep the ears dry